2012-04-13 / Community

High school project could break ground May 7

By Kristy Wagner
Staff Writer

South Portland City Council voted in favor of an amended renovation plan for the high school construction project and, in doing so, agreed to enter into a contract with PC Construction. The school department has targeted May 7 for PC Construction to break ground on the high school renovations project.

The South Portland School Department revised and amended the design plan for the renovation of South Portland High School over the last few weeks. The proposed modifications decrease the projected construction budget by $3.2 million from the lowest bid cost of $43.2 million by PC Construction out of Burlington, Vt., which submitted the lowest bid in February.

In November 2010, South Portland residents approved a bond to renovate the high school. Renovations focus on safety, health and security issues, which representatives of the South Portland High School Building Committee said were sustained in the revision process.

Chairman of the Building Committee Ralph Baxter said the committee made “tough choices” in revising the renovations plan, but they were able to make changes without disturbing the educational integrity of the original building plans. He said educational programming was the committee’s top priority during the revision process.

“We were able to make changes without affecting learning opportunities for students,” he said.

The amended building plan retains many of the energyefficient components of the original plan, including sun shades, solar panels, a daylight harvesting system and high-efficiency windows with insulated glazing. A daylight harvesting system will allow the building to maintain a minimum light level throughout the day.

To reduce costs, the committee proposed simplifying the exterior and interior designs of the building by reworking brick patterns, reducing the size of larger windows, reconfiguring the layout of Beal Gym basement and simplifying porcelain tile designs.

“We switched from an oak trim to a poplar-painted trim, we added metal siding when it wasn’t metal siding before, and we redesigned brick patterns,” Baxter said at the April 4 special city council meeting.

He added that in an effort to save even more money, the building committee decided not to replace the auditorium roof.

“That roof has about 10 to 15 years of life in it so we’re reusing it,” he said. “The most important thing is that we did not compromise anything educationally in the building.”

To reduce costs further, the committee proposed substituting materials for flooring, exterior columns, countertops and skylights.

“We do believe that we were diligent in our work and we are presenting a project we can be proud of,” said Superintendent Suzanne Godin.

Councilors voted 6-1 in favor of the new plan, with Councilor Tom Livingston in opposition.

“I think we have hurriedly advanced this project and it may cost taxpayers in the future,” Livingston said.

He said cutting corners in the new plan, as well as in the original plan, to reduce spending would cost taxpayers more money in the long run than simply paying to renovate and upgrade the areas that need it now.

Some of the items he thought would end up costing taxpayers in the future included the grassed courtyard, which he said would need mowing and grooming by city employees who are paid with taxpayer money. He also said not budgeting for restrooms for the Quarterback Club, the refreshment stand by the football field, would result in spending money on portable restrooms for athletic events. Livingston continued to cite many other areas he felt were neglected in the high school construction plan.

“Do I want this building? Yes. We need this building,” he said. “I have tried with everything in me and worked very hard convincing myself that we should OK this right now, but it just doesn’t feel right so I cannot support this tonight.”

Susan Adams, a member of the building committee, said there was no lack of concern or passion among committee members in forming the original renovation plan or in its revision.

Councilor Rosemarie De Angelis said she appreciated the committee’s work ethic and that she was excited to see the committee members’ hard work come to fruition.

“I certainly will support this action tonight; it has been a long time coming,” she said. “There has been a lot of excitement getting this started.”

Staff Writer Kristy Wagner can be reached at 282-4337, ext. 219.

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